Restaurants and bars were able to serve people indoors and churches, movie theaters and other places where people gather were able to accommodate larger groups under new public health orders that took effect Friday.
Gov. Mark Gordon announced last Wednesday that updated public health orders effective May 15 will ease restrictions on several business categories and permit restaurants to resume indoor table service statewide. He called it a substantial loosening of restrictions, especially as it comes alongside Yellowstone National Park’s opening Monday.
“I’m very anxious because we are loosening substantially many of the requirements we have in place,” he said. “We’re doing this safe. But I know our residents are at greater risk because of Yellowstone Park.”
He cautioned that orders could still become more restrictive again if conditions worsened with opening.
“Even as we ease restrictions, the virus is not gone,” he said. “It is still here, it is invisible and it can still wreak havoc.”
The governor has also allocated $17 million in federal funding to expand COVID-19 testing, improve contact tracing and add to the state’s supply of personal protective equipment.
“We have been working diligently to modify our public health orders to continue a safe and sensible reawakening of Wyoming’s economy,” Gordon said. “I am also pleased to be directing funds available through the CARES Act to improve our ability to identify cases of COVID-19 and limit public exposure to the virus.”
The modified orders allow restaurants to offer indoor and outdoor dining service under specific conditions intended to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. These include adequate spacing of tables, a requirement that staff wear face coverings and be screened for symptoms of COVID-19, as well as the implementation of increased sanitation measures.
The further easing of orders expands the public gathering limit and permits larger gatherings for churches, religious organizations and funeral homes as long as they implement social distancing measures and specific sanitization procedures. Churches, along with movie theaters and performance venues, can bring in more than 25 people if they practice adequate social gathering.
Movie theaters and performance venues will also be allowed to reopen in a limited capacity and permit public gatherings of up to 25 persons. Gyms may now open locker rooms, offer personal training and provide group classes for up to 20 participants. Childcare centers will be permitted to have up to 25 persons total in a classroom.
“We must continue to be vigilant about social distancing,” Gordon said. “I am confident that the public and business community will continue to recognize that their actions will allow us to continue a safe, steady path forward. It is important to remember that even as we ease restrictions, COVID-19 is still with us and will continue to be present in Wyoming for some time.”
The $15 million Gordon allocated to the Wyoming Department of Health will help the agency increase its diagnostic testing and contact tracing capabilities. Funds will be used to bolster testing capacity at the Public Health Laboratory, obtain additional testing supplies and provide additional support to the team that does contact tracing, that includes people in communities across the state.
The governor also allocated $2 million to the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, which will be working with the Wyoming Business Council to purchase Personal Protective Equipment and distribute it to non-health care related entities to support public safety for businesses and other entities across the state under the new health orders.
He said medical facilities do have adequate equipment.